ubuntu

Posted by Jeni in | 2 April 2021

We lived in East London. Watney Street. Solander Gardens. I went to Cannon Barnet in Aldgate East. I was dark skinned and one of the many Jewish kids at the school.

We non C-of-E pupils skipped assembly and stood in separate dinner lines from the Gentiles. They had milky custard whilst ours was made from water so that the practicing Jews could eat Kosher and not mix milk with meat. Our form teacher was Miss Ploughman and I loved her. She wore smocks over her skirt and presided over us when we had our afternoon nap, on little camp beds, in the hall which always smelt of stale mince, mashed potatoes and cabbage. In 1953, aged four, I queued up with all the other infants for my Coronation silver spoon. I wish I still had it. It was wrapped in tissue paper and I bit on it thinking it was liquorice. I still don't know where that idea came from. That little girl lived in a world of chaotic imaginings, misunderstanding the status quo, making up her own wild stories, feeling like a - 'Nother' is what so-called minorities do don't they?

I was reprimanded for saying I could plait hair, when in fact I had no fucking idea what a plait was. I stood at the front of the class trying to get two clumps of hair to stay in tact - who knew it had to be divided into three - but I had eagerly offered myself up as a hairdresser because I had seen somebody make a plait in the playground, which was situated on the roof of the school surrounded by wire meshing to protect us from falling onto Commercial Street. I watched the plaiting and just knew I could do it. The teacher, not Miss Ploughman, accused me of lying and asked me to hold out my hand. The ruler came down with a nasty sting on my palm. I can remember the humiliation being far greater than the painful slap. It happened again after Friday sweets were handed out. I never got any. One Friday a creche of jelly babies landed on my desk. It occurred to me, years later, that the teacher had had a word with the class. 'Nother' felt that sting of humiliation bite again.

When we learnt about Jesus and the Church of England, I was intrigued by both, since neither Jesus nor England felt like they belonged to me, although Jesus was jewish, his dad was a carpenter and his mum looked decent enough. Our flat had a little brick wall at the end of the communal green. There's an old photograph of my brother standing in a semi circle with all the other kids on the estate, waiting to go on a day trip. I was ill, somewhere in the back of shot is my mother holding me, wrapped in a blanket. Ooops here comes 'Nother'.

When I was sent to the headmistress for banning a girl from a game on my last day at the school, the seeds of injustice were sown. The girl had bullied me for years so I stood my ground and kept her out of the circle. The headmistress called me into her office and told me I was mean and selfish, I never told anyone but a pattern was emerging. Even though I was within my rights to punish the bully I did not defend myself. I quietly took the punishment myself, which is why the story of Jesus appealed to me so much because he apparently took the blows even though he was, like me, just a well meaning Yid. So aged four I sat on that little brick wall outside the flat on Maundy Thursday, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Good Friday until the sun went down, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Saturday until the sun went down. Took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Sunday when finally my mother came out and asked me what I was doing. I told her that Jesus had died for us but not to worry because he would rise again after three days and walk amongst us. If I sat on that wall he would find his way to Whitechapel and would turn up and I was determined to be there when he did. We'd have a chat and I'd ask him what was it like being totally dead for three days.

He never came. I'm still waiting for him to walk amongst us. There are those that say he is always here, those who think he didn't exist, and those who couldn't give a fuck. Me, well like my four year old self I'm still sitting on the wall waiting for him to turn up. if only so he can make sense of all the nonsense around us.

I can't be the only one who is dismayed by Myanmar, horrified by police brutality, here and there, I can't be the only one who feels unmitigated sadness as tree after tree is being cut down for 5G, railway lines, property developments. I can't be the only one confused by Covid. I cannot be the only one sitting on the wall waiting.

So it's goodbye Easter, with not many chocolate eggs and definitely no lamb, and a lot of reading when I came across this;

An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe ... He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: The first child to reach the tree will get the basket. When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit! When he asked them why you did that when every one of you could get the basket only for him! They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu. "That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?" UBUNTU in their civilisation means: I AM BECAUSE WE ARE That tribe knows the secret of happiness that has been lost in all societies that transcend them and which consider themselves civilized societies ....... !!

Oi! Jesus, if you read my blog, come on mate we could all do with a bit of loving thy neighbour and a lorry load of communal responsibility, so if you can find your way - I'll be sitting on the wall outside the pub - just praying - sorry saying.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At April 7, 2021 6:14 PM Lyn Misselbrook wrote:

I love that story - anthropologists are often so po-faced!

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